Auburn Watches as Others Scramble
The movie trailer to this weekend’s action adventure would involve half a dozen or so college mascots hanging by fingernails or hoofs or beaks from a cliff high atop BCS Mountain.
You could call it a real Jason White-knuckler.
With Auburn idle and eager to pounce, and major bowl representatives being deployed to press boxes across America to remind interested parties how much money is at stake, college football provided a snapshot to what could be a November to remember.
Four of the top seven teams in last week’s bowl championship standings trailed their opponents at halftime Saturday. All four rallied to victories and left the national title chase in somewhat suspended animation.
No. 1 USC nearly went down in the pea-soup fog at Corvallis, Ore., before recovering to defeat (we think the Trojans won; it was tough to make out the images) Oregon State, 28-20.
No. 2 Oklahoma needed a busted-play touchdown pass from White to Mark Bradley to overcome host Texas A&M; in College Station, 42-35.
No. 4 California held off Oregon, 28-27, although we’re not sure how, and No. 7 Texas staged the most remarkable comeback since USC turned tables on Notre Dame in 1974.
We think we can explain what happened in Austin, Texas. Early in the game, one of the referees mistakenly announced a timeout had been called by “Oklahoma.”
Hearing this, Texas immediately fell behind, 35-7, before realizing it was actually playing Oklahoma State.
Texas then scored 49 consecutive points.
What does this all mean?
Four top teams staved off disaster and precariously held tight to status quo.
You could almost hear gurgling in BCS computers and the stomachs of voting coaches and writers as they tried to make sense of the situation.
USC probably will retain its top position in the BCS standings even as judges review the Trojans’ “guilty with an explanation” plea at Oregon State.
Oklahoma’s grip on the No. 2 spot could get more interesting as the major powers broker for BCS position.
Oklahoma immediately went into damage control after giving up 35 points to an opponent for the second consecutive week, deftly portraying its shaky comeback win as a test of fortitude rather than cause for concern.
Auburn fans aren’t buying it.
Should USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Wisconsin and Utah finish unbeaten, the BCS is going to have another mess on its hands.
Wisconsin and Utah probably won’t have a 1-2 case, but Auburn would be shrieking like a War Eagle.
The Tigers are a solid No. 3 in the BCS, which is like being fourth in an Olympic track race with a lap to go.
Yet, if Auburn wins its last three games and winds up 12-0, how could the top team in the Southeastern Conference not be in the BCS title game?
Answer: Um, because USC and Oklahoma have been first and second in the polls all year.
Auburn fans are already politicking for the No. 2 spot in the hope of eroding support for Oklahoma.
Auburn is thinking three wins (starting Saturday against Georgia) and a well-coordinated public relations campaign might be enough to leapfrog over Oklahoma.
Indeed, from the comfort of their couches, the Tigers did draw closer to the Sooners in both the coaches’ and writers’ polls Sunday.
Free advice from a wise old BCS sage: Oklahoma, you’d better watch your back.
Utah, with its 62-31 win over Colorado State, did its part in trying to justify holding on to its No. 6 BCS ranking -- but will it be enough? The Utes got two bad breaks when Texas rallied to beat Oklahoma State and Oklahoma rallied to beat Texas A&M.;
Texas’ incredible comeback win alone might be enough to move the Longhorns past Utah in today’s BCS standings. A Texas A&M; win over No. 2 Oklahoma would have helped Utah because the Utes beat the Aggies by 20 points.
Utah needs to stay at No. 6 or better to earn an automatic BCS bid this year.
It’s a mystery, man: Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson is a leading Heisman Trophy contender because he has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his team’s games this year. Here’s another running back who has rushed for more than 100 yards in every game: California senior tailback J.J. Arrington, who is receiving little Heisman attention. In fact, you could argue Jill Arrington has a better shot at winning the trophy than J.J.
Here he comes ... again: White, last year’s Heisman winner, is making a late-season case to become a repeat winner. In his last four games, the Oklahoma quarterback has completed 63% of his passes for 1,158 yards, 16 touchdowns and only one interception.
Compare and contrast: In 1974, USC trailed Notre Dame, 24-0, late in the second quarter and then scored 55 consecutive points.
Last Saturday, Texas trailed Oklahoma State, 35-7, late in the second quarter and scored 49 consecutive points against the Cowboys.
Doesn’t this beat all? You know the Big 12 Conference North Division is a joke when Iowa State (5-4, 3-3) can control its destiny and earn a spot in the title game (probably against Oklahoma) if it beats Kansas State and Missouri. Iowa State hasn’t won or shared a league title since 1912. The Big 12 North is so whacked out there’s a chance the champion will advance to the title game with a 6-5 record, lose to Oklahoma and fall to 6-6, and would need special dispensation from the NCAA to compete in a bowl game with a non-winning record.